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Home >> About Us >> Patient Advisory Board

Patient Advisory Board

The Patient Advisory Board serves as the voice of the dysautonomia and caregiver patient population. Each member of the Patient Advisory Board brings his or her unique skills and background to the board. Patient Advisory Board members assist with speaking engagements, organizing fundraisers, conferences and awareness events, and many other tasks vital to the operation of a successful health advocacy organization.

Doreen O'Connor, L.M.TDoreen O'Connor, L.M.T
Doreen attended The New York College for Wholistic Medicine and is a Licensed Massage Therapist. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business and Sociology. Doreen has worked in many medical facilities and has significant experience interacting with doctors, nurses, and patients. She has been very active in educating her community about dysautonomia, fundraising for Dysautonomia International, and providing emotional support for people with dysautonomia. Doreen was diagnosed with her POTS in 2010 and later with Small Fiber Neuropathy. She resides on Long Island, New York with her husband and two children.

Hanna GullyHanna Gully
Hanna graduated cum laude from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, where she focused on the U.S. and Asia, minored in Religion, Ethics and World Affairs and studied Mandarin. In college, she worked as general manager of a store owned by The Students of Georgetown, Inc., a company operated entirely by Georgetown undergraduates. Hanna interned in the D.C. office of former U.S. Senator John Kerry and held a summer fellowship on President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. She developed POTS after a concussion in 2007 but was not diagnosed until her final year of college in 2014. She assisted with the 2015 Boston POTS Walk and raised $25,000 for POTS research. Dysautonomia International named Hanna and race organizer Sarah Mendelowitz its 2015 Volunteers of the Year.

Irina BalanIrina Balan
Irina holds Bachelors degrees in both Physics and Chemistry, with a minor in Education from Dunarea de Jos University in Romania, and a Masters in Physical Chemistry from Bordeaux I University in France. She taught Chemistry and Physics for over 10 years. In 2011 she developed sudden onset debilitating symptoms that would later be diagnosed as POTS secondary to Lyme disease. Since being diagnosed, she has been researching autonomic disorders and helping others by actively participating in discussions in forums and internet support groups. Irina resides in Canada with her husband.

Kim DiBonaKim DiBona
Kim has been employed as an office manager for a lawn care company in NJ since 2002. Prior to that, she worked as a legal secretary for law firms in both New Jersey and New York. She became an active volunteer for Dysautonomia International after her daughter was diagnosed with of POTS, gastroparesis, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. The difficulties her daughter had in getting diagnosed and obtaining proper treatment drive Kim to advocate for other patients and caregivers, so that they don't have to endure what her family went through. Among her efforts to raise funds and awareness, Kim has co-hosted multiple events to benefit Dysautonomia International. She resides in Jackson, New Jersey with her husband and two children.

Roberto Salvatierra DuranRoberto Salvatierra Duran
Roberto is a medical student from Costa Rica. He began medical school in 1992, but two years later had to drop out due to serious health problems. He was diagnosed with panic disorder and agoraphobia. By 1998, he was feeling better and so returned to pursue his medical degrees, only to again have to leave school due to deteriorating health. Not one to be deterred from pursuing his dream, in 2002 he returned to medical school. He managed to make it through four years of medical training despite many health challenges. Once again, in 2006 his dream was put on hold when his health worsened. To help pay his bills, he began working with people who have panic disorder/agoraphobia and programming 'virtual world' computer games. He won accolades in the spanish and english speaking communities for this work. In 2010, Roberto's health took another turn for the worse. After many years of misdiagnosis, Roberto was finally diagnosed with Conn's Syndrome and then POTS. Thankfully, many of his symptoms began to resolve after he began the proper treatments for these illnesses. By early 2012, he was feeling well enough to pursue a Pharmacy degree, launch an import business and return to medical school. He expects to graduate from Universidad Hispanoamerica in 2013 and begin his Internship. Roberto intends to focus his career on POTS and anxiety disorders. He is also interested exploring the role of alternative medicine in these disorders. He has three beautiful daughters and resides in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Kyla JonesKyla Jones
Kyla is a senior at James Madison University in Virginia. She plans to major in Biology and minor in Chronic Illness, with the intent of entering medical school. Kyla has experience volunteering with other health related organizations, including the American Cancer Society and the Walter Reed Hospital Yellow Ribbon Fund. During her junior year of high school, Kyla experienced her third case of mononucleosis. Ten months later she was diagnosed with POTS secondary to chronic Epstein Barr Virus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Not one to let health problems hold her back, she started a support group for POTS patients in her area, worked with a local pediatric cardiologist to educate medical professionals on how to recognize POTS and has given interviews on her experiences with POTS to the media. Kyla is the youngest member of Dysautonomia International's Patient Advisory Board, and she is very happy to be able to provide a voice for other young dysautonomia patients.

Kristina MarieKristina Marie
Kristina holds bachelor’s degrees in both Communication and English from the University of Puget Sound where she also minored in African American Studies. She is now a northwest-based writer and former television producer and host of the award-winning Health Watch series. She has also worked in public relations and non-profit management. Her communication background has served her well in her professional endeavors as well as in her daily life as a dysautonomia patient. Kristina first became symptomatic her senior year of college following a routine wisdom-teeth removal surgery and was sent to a cardiologist who immediately suspected autonomic dysfunction. Less than a year later, she was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome after fainting at her college graduation. Since then, she has made it her mission to educate others about dysautonomia while striving to lead as healthy a life as possible. Kristina lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest where she enjoys writing, recumbent biking and ballet.

Amanda RossAmanda Ross
Amanda received a B.A. in Behavioral Biology from Johns Hopkins University and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine. She has been involved in research on POTS, the autonomic nervous system, and cardiovascular physiology since 2012. Amanda has presented her research at prestigious national conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals. She was diagnosed with POTS and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome in 2011, which propelled her work in this field. When she isn't in a lab or in the library, she's at the gym or spending time with her boyfriend and her guinea pig.

Jennifer Samghabadi, FNP-CJennifer Samghabadi, FNP-C
Jennifer is a Certified Family Nurse Practitioner with 22 years of professional medical experience, including work in the neonatal intensive care unit, emergency medicine, perioperative, critical care nursing, staff development, supervising education programs, and serving as a Unit Director. She earned her Masters as Family Nurse Practitioner at SUNY Stony Brook, graduating Magna Cum Laude. She is a member of the American Nurses Association-NY, and the Long Island and American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Jennifer has been active in helping to educate other medical professionals about autonomic disorders. Jennifer started feeling the effects of dysautonomia during her first pregnancy in 2007. She was diagnosed with POTS. In 2012, she was diagnosed with kidney cancer (renal carcinoma). Her POTS symptoms resolved after she had the carcinoma removed, along with 1/3 of her affected kidney. She resides and works in Long Island, New York with her husband and daughter.

Elyse Schwartz, MSWElyse Schwartz, MSW
Elyse was diagnosed with POTS during college. She became a licensed clinical Social Worker, earning her Master's Degree from Boston University and her undergraduate degree from Northeastern University. She has worked with children, adolescents and adults in a variety of settings, including assessment units, emergency rooms and out-patient mental health clinics. She is committed to increasing awareness of autonomic disorders to help future generations. Elyse co-founded InnerWorks Wellness LLC, a psychotherapy practice in Rockville, MD that specializes in working with people who have various forms of dysautonomia. Elyse enjoys working out to help manage her POTS symptoms. She has completed seven half-marathons and looks forward running with Team Dysautonomia.

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